GP practices are ‘hugely welcome’ to take part in an NHS trial that will deploy the first at-home antiviral treatment for people with Covid-19 at risk of developing severe disease, NHS England has said.
It follows an announcement earlier this month that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) approved molnupiravir (brand name Lagevrio) after a trial showed it was effective at reducing hospitalisation and death in high-risk patients.
Details on how it would be rolled out in the NHS would follow, ministers said, but it would likely be part of a study.
Now NHS officials have confirmed that the molnupiravir will be deployed as part of the UK PANORAMIC study and is due to start in December.
Funding for the UK-wide trial was agreed in October, with the University of Oxford leading several universities testing novel treatments to be used early in Covid-19 in the community.
‘GP practices are hugely welcome to take part in this important study and further details will be available in due course,’ an NHS England webinar outlined.
The MHRA authorised the treatment for people who have mild to moderate Covid-19 and at least one risk factor for developing severe illness, including obesity, aged over 60 years, diabetes mellitus, or heart disease.
It is one of several antivirals being looked at by a Government task force. It has bought 480,000 doses of the antiviral developed by Merck and taken as a twice daily pill – with the first doses expected to arrive by mid-November.
Molnupiravir works by interfering with the virus’ replication keeping levels low and clinical trial data shows it is most effective in the early stages of infection.
The MHRA said it should be used as soon as possible after a positive Covid-19 test and within five days of symptoms onset.
Dr June Raine, MHRA chief executive, said the decision had been made following a rigorous review of the data by their expert committee and they were satisfied the antiviral was safe and effective.
NHS England stressed that the treatment was not intended as a substitute for vaccination against Covid-19.